Owning Your Decisions – 7 Questions to Help You Learn & Grow


Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist, philosopher and Holocaust survivor, famously drew on his experiences in Auschwitz and other concentration camps to write the deeply moving and influential book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. This remarkable book has sold over ten million copies and been translated into 24 languages. In it, Frankl made this observation about decision making and freedom:

  ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.’

Frankl believed that we aren’t simply victims of our circumstances, no matter how horrific they may be. We always have some power of choice in how we respond. The greatest power we have – some would say the only power we have – is the power to choose. And as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. If we don’t own responsibility for our decisions, then who does?


Are you in denial, pretending things are okay? ‘Everything is fine, I don’t know what you’re talking about?’

Are you a ‘blame-shifter’?

    “I only did what he told me to do!” 

“I couldn’t make any better choices, because my boss wouldn’t let me.”

    “My childhood was really difficult.”

“My parents were bad at decision making and I’ve inherited their stupid DNA.”

    “The universe/fate/God/spirits-of-the-trees-and-flowers conspired against me.”

Owning and Growing

Guess what? Nobody is interested in your excuses. And more importantly, excusing yourself from taking responsibility means saying no to personal growth.

Don’t wallow in misery. You’re not hopeless – mistakes are an essential part of becoming awesome at anything. 

Don’t be fatalistic. No matter how strongly you believe in fate, destiny or a greater power controlling the universe, you still have agency. You are able to make decisions – and the society we all live in will hold you responsible for those choices. 

Instead, commit to looking closely at the situation to see if there might be any lessons to learn. Here’s seven questions to ask yourself when you think you’ve made a bad decision.

1. Did I really make a poor choice?

Before you go any further, just pause and consider if you really did make a bad decision. A good place to start is by checking your expectations. Have you gone into a relationship and found your partner is more irritating and less selfless than you’d expected. This might be a simple case of ‘Hello, welcome to reality!’ and not necessarily a poor choice. Of course some behaviours and character flaws are serious and should make us pause and consider our choices – but if you’re expecting perfection, prepare to be disappointed. 

2. Is there a pattern of poor choices?

A strong indicator that something isn’t right is if you regularly find yourself regretting your decisions. Sticking with the example of relationships – if I look behind, do I see a string of ‘toxic ex-partners’? Rather than concluding that karma is visiting some kind of retribution on you, consider what recurring mistakes you might be making when you’re choosing a partner. Two similar mistakes might be a coincidence – more than that and you’d better pay attention.

3. Did I ignore my values and my bigger goals?

Did I make an impulsive choice to spend my savings on that new car, when what I really wanted was to get enough for a deposit for a home? When there is a dissonance between your choices and the things you deeply care about, you’ll inevitably feel a sense of regret. Don’t ignore your values or lose sight of your goals. Check out our post on ‘non-negotiables’ for more on this topic.

4. Did I use the right criteria to evaluate the options?

Measure and count the things that matter. If you’re choosing a job, think carefully about what criteria are important. I read today about a woman who had just bought her dream home only to find out an energy plant could be built just a block from her house. I’m not sure if she didn’t do enough research, but assessing the suitability of a house means understanding the neighbourhood it sits in and not just the building itself. Think carefully about what criteria matter when making a decision. 

5. Did I miss important information that would have changed my mind?

We’ve all made decisions and afterwards thought, if I only knew [fill in the blank] beforehand I would have chosen differently. Of course no decision is informed by perfect knowledge, but it’s worth stopping to ask, ‘Why didn’t I know that? Could I have done more research, or consulted other people who could have helped?’ Don’t rush past the data gathering when it comes to important decisions.

6. Did I ignore important information?

This might sound like a similar issue to #5, but in this case we have access to great advice and we choose not to listen to it. Why? Sometimes we’re too proud to listen to others. Sometimes we don’t like what we hear. Never ignore wise advice, no matter how unpalatable it might be.

7. Did I consider enough options?

My family will tell you I’m a speedy shopper. This is often fine – if I find a new shirt that I like and that fits, I can buy it and be happy with it. I don’t walk away and imagine what other shirts might be out there. You might be the same. But for bigger choices, you might want to take more time and look at a wider range of options.


The first step to learning and improving our decision making is taking ownership of our choices. Owning your decisions is the opposite of blame-shifting. You know those people – they are always blaming external circumstances or other people when things don’t work out the way they want. A victim never learns and never grows – because they never think they need to.

Own and learn. Own and grow.

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